NHRA

NHRA: ‘Fast Jack’ Beckman ready to unleash thunder and lightning at Bristol

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To paraphrase a line from one of Garth Brooks’ biggest hits, the thunder will roll this weekend and NHRA Funny Car driver Jack Beckman hopes lightning will strike for him.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series moves into Thunder Valley, otherwise known as Bristol Dragway in eastern Tennessee – across from its more well-known big brother, Bristol Motor Speedway – for this weekend’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

And while each of the 11,000 horsepower motors in Funny Car and Top Fuel will make it seem like it’s thunder rolling down the track, Beckman wants to strike like lightning and earn not only his first win of 2019 but also his first win ever at Thunder Valley.

Funny Car driver Jack Beckman. Photo: NHRA.

It’s been an interesting year,” Beckman said in a NHRA media release. “At the beginning of the year, we had one of the best cars, but after Gainesville we had a little magic out of the car.

We stayed after Richmond and tested and Chicago was the first time I felt we were back. The car is listening and things are working well, and that’s going to pay off when we continue to go to these hot tracks. That test session and getting things turned around couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Indeed, Beckman’s performance in his Don Schumacher Racing Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat has increased sharply in the last two races. He reached the semifinals at Chicago (lost to Robert Hight) and again lost to Hight in the finals of this past Sunday’s race at Topeka, Kansas. It was Beckman’s second final round appearance of the season.

To come so close, it’s very clear he’s knocking on victory’s door. This weekend could be the day he finally kicks that door down and motors on into the winner’s circle.

A win puts everyone on the right track,” said Beckman, who is a two-time runner-up finisher at Bristol. “You can’t guarantee a win, but you have a better chance of winning if everyone is in a positive mood.

It helps to have some history with the team, especially when you make a mistake like I did in Chicago. But we’ve done some good things and they know I’ll get back on track. All of us are going to make mistakes, but being close and having history together, that helps. Overall, everyone is putting in a great effort.”

Beckman has one of the most colorful nicknames in the sport: “Fast Jack.” It’s served him well and is quite appropriate, as he won the Funny Car championship in 2012. He also previously shared the record with teammate Matt Hagan for fastest speed in Funny Car (335.57 mph), a mark that Hight broke this past weekend at Topeka at 337.66 mph.

While he’d love to have the speed mark back, a win is more important. And with the following race at Norwalk, Ohio in a couple weeks, where Beckman has the most wins (three) of any Funny Car driver there, the Southern California native could be peaking at just the right time.

A win puts everyone on the right track,” Beckman said. “You can’t guarantee a win, but you have a better chance of winning if everyone is in a positive mood. It helps to have some history with the team, especially when you make a mistake like I did in Chicago.

“But we’ve done some good things and they know I’ll get back on track. All of us are going to make mistakes, but being close and having history together, that helps. Overall, everyone is putting in a great effort.”

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Rinus VeeKay to drive for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020

Doug Mathews/IndyCar
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Ed Carpenter Racing has signed 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay to drive the full 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, the team announced Wednesday.

VeeKay will drive the No. 21 Chevrolet previously occupied by Spencer Pigot.

“I’m so happy!” the 19-year-old driver from the Netherlands said in a press release. “It’s a dream come true and something we have worked extremely hard for over the last couple of years. To step up from USF2000 to the NTT IndyCar Series in three years is really special.”

In his maiden Indy Lights season this year, VeeKay collected six race victories and seven pole potions. VeeKay previously won the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 championship, and finished second in the 2017 USF2000 standings.

VeeKay’s success in the ladder series caught the attention of Carpenter, who gave VeeKay the opportunity to first test for the team at Portland International Raceway in August.

“I have been following Rinus’s path through the Road to Indy, especially the past two years,” Carpenter said. “It was clear to me that he deserves to be in an Indy car. After his first day in a car at Portland this past season, that feeling became even more apparent. His pace, feedback and demeanor inside the car was very impressive for such a young driver.”

As a driver, Carpenter will be VeeKay’s teammate during the five oval races in 2020, once again returning to the team’s No. 20 entry. An announcement on which driver will pilot the No. 20 on the road and street circuits will be made at a later time.

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